Category: Neil Young

Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night

ARTIST: Neil Young                            220px-Neil_Young_TTN_cover

TITLE:  Tonight’s the Night

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION: #25

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Tonight’s the Night, Come on Baby Let’s Go downtown, Roll Another Number (For the Road)

LINEUP: Neil Young, Ben Keith, Nils Lofgren, Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina. A live cut featured Danny Whitte and Jack Nitzsche. Tim Drummond and Kenny Buttrey were on a track.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A dark album about the despair that emanated from overdose deaths of two of Young’s close friends.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Danny Whitten was a great musician and friend. He worked with Young in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, but he couldn’t stay off of smack and he died. Bruce Berry was a roadie and another close friend who also died from heroin. Young poured his grief into this album, recording it in late 1973 with other close friends as an elegy and eulogy.

It’s a loose, raw record. You can hear the frayed emotions and tension in the playing and singing. It’s not raucous, or loud. It sounds like a wake, which in a sense it was. After the success of Harvest, Young went dark, and that fueled his art.

Using guitar, piano, steel guitar, bass and drums, Young and his assembled friends made a statement. It should be required listening for anyone in pain and grief.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: One track, “Come On Baby, Let’s Go Downtown” was recorded live with Whitten on guitar. It later showed up on a concert recording from Young’s archives.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. There is a version that’s even rawer and more gut wrenching that they may release later.

 GRADE: A+: Listen to this alone on a Saturday night when you’re alone and sad. It’s an album that speaks to you one on one.

Neil Young – On the Beach

ARTIST: Neil Young                 220px-On_the_Beach_-_Neil_Young

TITLE: On the Beach

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #16 US, #42 UK

SINGLES: Walk On (#61 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: For the Turnstiles

LINEUP: Neil Young, Ben Keith, Tim Drummond with cameos by Ralph Molina, Levon Helm, Rusty Kershaw, Graham Nash, Billy Talbot, David Crosby, George Whitsell, and Rick Danko

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Young’s first studio album since his commercial breakthrough is a despairing look at 1974 from several angles.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The year 1974 was a bleak one for those who had hoped the Sixties would bring change, and the tone and tenor of this Neil Young album fits in well with the national malaise.

With songs about energy companies, politics, fame, serial killers, and cynicism, this is not a sunshiny walk in the sand. There’s some harrowing imagery throughout the record, and the tone is rough and ragged, with the mix deliberately being a rough monitor mix instead of the full mix done by the engineers.

There’s some glimmer of hope, as “Walk On’ points to a way out of fog. It’s a fantastic record, and a bummer of a record.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Young and his guests consumed a marijuana and honey concoction during the recording sessions called Honey Slides.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A: There’s hardly a mis-step (depending on how you feel about “Motion Pictures”), and it does take you back to a time where it seemed nothing was going to go right in the world.

Neil Young – Time Fades Away

ARTIST: Neil Young                   Timefadesaway.jpeg

TITLE: Time Fades Away

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #22 US, #20 UK

SINGLES: Time Fades Away

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Don’t Be Denied, Journey Through the Past

LINEUP: Neil Young, Ben Keith, Jack Nitzsche, Tim Drummond, John Barbada. David Crosby and Graham Nash show up a couple of times.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Live album of new songs is fantastic, but hated by Young because of the memories of the tour.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After Harvest, and the success of Harvest, Neil Young took everyone on a huge veer to the left. First, he released the soundtrack to his movie Journey Through the Past, which isn’t streaming, has never been on CD, and is…well…not worth reviewing anyway or complaining about the fact it’s missing. (In a word, it’d be my first F if I decided to review it). Then he went on tour with a group he called the Stray Gators, full of session whizzes, and played a bunch of new songs, loudly.

The tour was a mess. Everything that went wrong, from band members getting fired, to Young getting a sore throat, to animosity throughout the band, to heavy drug and alcohol use, to indifferent receptions to some great new songs, soured Young on this whole era. The album that resulted, though, shows these songs are among Neil’s best.

The star cut, in my ears, is “Don’t Be Denied”, though all eight songs are fantastic. Young’s ballads are heartfelt and intimate even if he’s playing in arenas. The rockers are raucous, and even if Young’s voice is a bit shaggy it still carries emotion.

After many, many, years in the wilderness due to Young’s bad feelings about the entire tour and experience (and personally, an MP3 I procured via a torrent of a vinyl copy), it’s now out there, warts and all. A must have.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Crosby and Nash came along at the end of the tour because of Neil’s sore throat.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A: I’m probably upping this a notch high because I’m so glad it’s out there, but it’s excellent despite the raggedness.

Neil Young – Harvest

ARTIST: Neil Young                  220px-NeilYoungHarvestalbumcover

TITLE: Harvest

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Heart of Gold (#1 US, #10 UK), Old Man (#31 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: A Man Needs a Maid, The Needle and the Damage Done

LINEUP: Neil Young, Ben Keith, Jack Nitzche, Tim Drummond, Kennty Buttrey and other guests like CSN, Linda Ronstadt, and James Taylor

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A laid back country influenced album from Young becomes a hit and Young’s signature record, much to his chagrin.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Neil Young definitely had an ear for combining country, folk, and rock. Yet, he wasn’t part of the nascent ‘country rock’ movement, he was his own man, as always.

There’s a melancholy air to the album, fitting the times. A lot of the songs are commentaries on the life in 1972, political, social, and generational. There’s a couple of cuts that break away from the country-sounding style thanks to some orchestration added on (a rarity for Young).

While this was popular, and some songs are poignant, a few cuts just seem tossed off to fit the theme and aren’t as meaningful as others.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Alabama” was a followup to “Southern Man”, and those songs made Lynyrd Skynyrd respond to him. Also, Young didn’t like the spotlight, and retreated by making his next few albums uncompromising and non-commerical.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B: I know this is one of his best-loved album by casual fans, but only a few tracks seem at par with Young’s best.

Neil Young – After the Gold Rush

ARTIST: Neil Young                                          220px-after_the_gold_rush

TITLE:  After the Gold Rush

YEAR RELEASED: 1970

CHART ACTION: #8 US, #7 UK

SINGLES: Only Love Can Break Your Heart (#33), When You Dance I Can Really Love (#93)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: After the Gold Rush, Southern Man

LINEUP: Neil Young, Danny Whitten, Nils Lofgren, Jack Nitzsche, Billy Talbot, Greg Reeves, Ralph Molina. Stephen Stills sings backup, and Bill Peterson was the one who played the iconic flugelhorn solo on the title cut.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A classic album that brought in the 70’s from the 60’s idyllic haze.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Neil Young was inspired by a screenplay from Dean Stockwell and Herb Bermann, and wrote a few songs for the soundtrack (the film was never released). He recorded some tracks with Crazy Horse (even as Danny Whitten was in the throes of addiction) and others with parts of the CSN band.

Young’s songs evoke the issues of the country moving from the 60’s to the 70’s. The morose theme rings through the tracks, but then there’s hope in some tracks as well. The lyrics are oblique, while the music creates the mood (except for “Southern Man” which is angry on all fronts). The album is mostly acoustic in feel, but some tracks crank out the rock. It’s a good balance showing all sides of Young.

The title track is one of the best songs Young ever wrote, and could be a theme of the 70’s even if the meaning is obfuscated by the passages of time (and Young’s memory).

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Four of the tracks were recorded with Crazy Horse, then the rest with a amalgamated band that included Nils Lofgren on keyboards, an instrument he never played on record before.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A+:  Neil Young has recorded a lot of albums, but this is probably his best. It’s one of the best of the 70’s for sure.

Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

ARTIST: Neil Young         220px-everybodyknowsthisisnowhere

TITLE:  Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

YEAR RELEASED: 1969

CHART ACTION: #34

SINGLES: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Down by the River, Cinnamon Girl (#55)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Cowgirl in the Sand

LINEUP: Neil Young with Crazy Horse: Danny Whitten, Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  First release for Young with Crazy Horse (formerly the Rockets) has three all-time classic songs, but a couple inconsistent cuts.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Starting out with “Cinnamon Girl” and its classic one-note guitar solo (and one of the best riffs in rock), and ending with Cowgirl in the Sand, this record established Young as a force in rock-and-roll, and really illustrated his strength as a composer as well.

Crazy Horse proved to be the perfect foil for Young when in this rock mode. Danny Whitten harmonized well with Young and was a great guitar supplement to him as well. The songs that work blasted out, and even when they jammed on for a while they still had urgency and tension.

However, a couple of the tracks really don’t work that well – mostly when Young gets quiet and soft-ish. He still needed to work on his ballad sound. Yet the classics and great tracks work well.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Young hooked up with the Rockets in 1968 after Buffalo Springfield exploded. He took Whitten, Talbot and Molina and called them Crazy Horse.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: My goodness, the three huge songs are huge. But the two blah cuts really stop the momentum.

Neil Young – Neil Young

ARTIST: Neil Young  Neil_Young_(album)_cover

TITLE:  Neil Young

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: The Loner

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Old Laughing Lady

LINEUP: Neil Young, Ry Cooder, Jack Nitzsche, Jim Messina, Carol Kaye, George Grantham, Earl Palmer

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First solo album from former Buffalo Springfield member has some good tracks but is marred by mix issues.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Most Neil Young albums are unique experiences, but his first solo record is totally different from those that followed. This one had an orchestral, ornate feel that was more of a product of Nitzsche’s production than Young’s aesthetic. 220px-Neil_Young_(album)

No doubt this came from some Springfield songs like “Broken Arrow”, which were put together laboriously in the studio. At times, it diminishes the heft of some of the songs, but the material itself isn’t up to Young’s standards before and after this album. Also, the weird mix was a result of a process that made stereo compatible to mono that rather much failed.

“The Loner”, “The Old Laughing Lady” and a few others are definite keepers. It’s not an essential album, and “The Loner” is a crucial song that could be found elsewhere.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They remixed the album without the stereo/mono process in 1969. The difference in the mixes are denoted by different covers.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B-: A couple great songs, but the production is a bit intrusive on most others.